Subsidy drop pinches Oz theater group

STC posts first deficit in 9 years

The Sydney Theater Company has posted an A$124,000 ($93,000) deficit, its first in nine years, despite registering the second-highest B.O. in its history and record sponsorship in 2005.

In the STC annual report, published last week, chairman James Strong said the company had tight controls on costs and that all income streams, except ticketing, were performing according to expectations.

Strong urged the federal government to raise subsidies to Australia’s biggest theater company, saying an internal report in late 2005 had indicated that rising costs meant STC would face a crisis of quality within a few years.

That theory is backed by a broader inquiry by the Australian Major Performing Arts Group.

In 1980, STC’s first full year, subsidies made up 47.5% of revenues, Strong said. Subsidies dropped to 7.5% last year.

By comparison, subsidies to the U.K.’s National Theater make up an average 52% of revenues.

STC’s 2005 deficit requires no action, as the company has assets and reserves worth $2.4 million.

B.O. receipts totaled $7.9 million, and sponsorship increased by 38% to $1.7 million.

Season’s outstanding productions were “Boy Gets Girl,” directed by STC artistic director Robyn Nevin, starring Matthew Newton and Miranda Otto, and director Lindy Davies’ “Old Times,” starring Angela Punch McGregor. Both sold out all but a handful of sessions at STC’s 330-seat Wharf 1 theater.

Top show at the 544-seat Opera House Drama Theater was David Williamson’s “Influence,” which grossed $1.3 million.

Michael Frayn’s “Democracy,” directed by Michael Blakemore, was the top show at the 886-seat Sydney Theater.

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